I’ve mostly been embarrassed by my looks, I never outgrew the gawky teens years. The fluke modeling career, false impressions people make about you. I downplayed it for half my life, hid in a corner for the benefit of others. There no longer is the need to pretend play that part. As I embark on a more satisfying, terrifying career, I jump. Headfirst. I thought I had to compartmentalize, distance myself from the past, to find the way to my future. I was wrong. I am a serious writer. I write the dark, so I can live in the light. Those who know me, know I’m not so serious at all. I’m eccentric sure, tend to trip up a lot. I’m done pretending, to be something I’m not. I won’t apologize for the life I got. Karma’s a bitch anyway, she bites back hard, when you need taking down a notch. I am, just like you. Only, slightly different. Empathic, I hope. But, sorry I am not. No, sorry is for sissy’s. I’m done with the phrase. I’ve plum worn it out. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, that’s not even close to the sum of its parts. One story belongs exclusively, to you. So I say, go, get on with the living with zero regret.
We talk about it. Yeah, we do. In my house, we talk about a lot. The mundane living stuff, movies, books, music, groceries, even the weather. And, death. We talk about that, too. Well, I do most of the talking. The persistent, detective’s daughter, ever annoying and inquisitive. The fervent need to know what comes next, how it should look, the driving force. The uncomfortable, inevitable last chapter. Well, you know. So yeah, we talk about the awfully, uncomfortable details. My most important person and me. The one that birthed me, gave me a life, the one that does the grunt work. Grinding up the gizzards for the holidays, the not so fun chores, traditions I rebuke. She watched as I make mistake after mistake, stuck on repeat. She told me to get up, brush it off, only to fall flat. Do it all over again. She did that, supported the triumphs and tears. So, I talk now. A lot. And I ask, one more time. Needing to get the ending right. She doesn’t want a confining box, that I’m sure. Never been boxed in before, why start now? Ashes are to be sprinkled, here and there. I know the exact, precision spots, the ideal time of day and year. I will do that, for her. I can do that, without being asked. Moral responsibility tells me so. She has her playlist composed, with all the familiar songs. The old favorites, classics that spanned a lifetime of happy, memories and intimate moments defined by a song. Per instruction, I’m to play them loud. To dance, sing and try to be happy. Celebrate this one life, no pity party necessary.
Chalk it up to morbid curiosity, the incessant need to know. I want the same, more or less. I’m spelling it out for you, now. No fuss, no muss. A quick mass to cover the bases. Ashes catch a ride on a spring, almost summer breeze, somersaults in mid-air without form, the spirit lives in the ether, light and easy. My playlist is a work in progress. I choose the songs carefully, with attention to detail. I’ve rocked out in stadiums, danced hot, sticky and sopping wet with delirious abandon, listened quietly to headphones, alone in the dark. Sitting by an open window legs perched on a sill, trying to get some relief from the overbearing, city heat. Feeling alive and independent. I revel in the silence and red stained lip from a half empty glass of Pinot Noir. The solitary me moment, the lone candle casts shadows upon the wall. I am moved to tears by a melody. A dance party. Yes, that’s exactly what I want. With happy colors and a lifetime’s intimately compiled playlist. A million, orange paper lanterns illuminate the night sky. A muffled, bass undertone lifts me up. Yes, that’s how heavenly it shall be. The maudlin, well-meaning, over thinker in me, has high hopes and glorified dreams.
Rummaging through junk, I rediscover hidden treasure. Time and distance put fresh perspective into meaning. An antique chest of drawers once belonged to my grandfather. It had secret compartments and a pullout desk, to store his important things. His rubber coin purse that gobbled up change, never to be seen again. Papers, letters and pencils filled the now empty spots. I was sure they were awfully important. I thought that chest of drawers was thrown out when he died, along with the rest of his belongings. I was ten, didn’t think twice, grown-ups dealt with grown-up stuff. Imagine my surprise, when I found that chest in the attic, in plain sight. Must have past it a thousand times. My heart was overjoyed with happy. I could see his gold tooth grin, horn rimmed glasses, smiling down on me. He was a gentleman giant, 6 foot something, wore dress slacks, lace up shoes and button down cardigans. I had to crick my neck to look up at him, the silver head of hair a frame of reference. Who knew I would grow up, try a gazillion different things, live a million lives, only to come home again. Who knew, I didn’t. I took it as a sign; I’m superstitious like that. Despite the endless questions, relentless worry, I might be in the right place, right time. Signals, lost moments are funny things, they come out of nowhere and disappear back into the land of lost dreams. Gotta hold tight, to conviction. I tried hard to force the who, what, how or where I’m supposed to be. Too hard, I suppose. The best pieces might need some light dusting, bit of polish, little elbow grease. Inside solid, cherry red oak new opportunity lies waiting. Love, and an old wooden desk are the structured, knotty pine memories that tell the stories.
I am not a patient person, no I am not. I bide my time, and busy myself with stuff. I should be writing, and I am. I’m also waiting, which is not good for an over active mind. I’ve begun the sequel to The Vast Landscape, and it’s good. Really, really good. Yet here I am, hurtling forward going nowhere. Jumping ahead to anticipate the future. The past sneaks in, the memories I cannot run from. They stick to me like a parasite drawing blood, all around and everywhere I turn. Can a five-year old understand the meaning of true love? I believed magic lived inside my daddy’s big, round, jovial belly, instead of plain old spaghetti and meatballs. The sparkling lights from the Christmas tree, snowflakes stuck to the window, felt warm and fuzzy. Childlike wonder, tossing and turning the night, excitedly awaiting the dawn and Santa. The yellow kick and go, with the humongous red bow sits under the tree, brought goosebumps of emotion. Spring couldn’t come fast enough, I’d be seven by then. A big girl, big enough to hit the streets. The alarm clock with the FM radio and ice cream cake at thirteen made me feel special. I believed that was love. Seventeen came with an attitude, a fancy pink and white, crepe silk ‘Dynasty’ dress, complete with shoulder pads. A real, honest to God first date. He was hot shit about town, a decade older and he picked me. I had to beg, cry and cajole my parents to give in. They caved, eventually. High school was miserable. I left slivers of happy and the light dimmed. When the date with the man-boy got too steamy; I was a scared, little girl way out of her comfort zone. I panicked, jumped up, smoothed out the wrinkles and called home. My daddy was there in minutes, at 2:00 a.m. to save me. No questions asked. It was easy to leave another piece. By twenty, I was a grownup living on my own. I met a guy, who said all the right things, bought roses and diamonds. He promised to take care of me. I believed him. Until he punched me in the ribs full fist, split my lip and blackened my eye. Yeah, it was easy to let go of love, for good. To give away yet another piece of a damaged soul. So, what did I do? I married him to silence the noise, despising every single thing he was. My father never judged, he walked me down the aisle, squeezed my hand tight and whispered he loved me. I walked away, the wasted decade lost for good. I left love behind, the compromise. The capacity, belief and desire to give away the best parts dies with each passing season. Thirty came, and went. Of course I made feeble attempts to trust, only to get my heartbroken. By forty, I no longer want, need, believe or care for romantic love. I have no time for regret, the false notion drilled in young heads. Fairytales don’t exist. There is no handsome prince riding in on a Harley to whisk you away. There is something else, something better, something bigger, something more. Something tangible to believe in. True love comes in many, many forms. A round belly filled with spaghetti and meatballs, the steadfast friend who calls every day, because she knows you need her, too proud to ask. The mother who put family first, never wanting for anything more. That five-year old was wise. She understood, blind faith, never needing to hear the word spelled out.
I have arrived, at the supposed highway, halfway mark of life. That’s a median guess based on statistics, there are no guarantees. I have learned a few lessons along the way. I am no more special, prettier, richer, smarter than most. Sure, I was granted a great big superficial life for a brief moment, filled with stuff, lots and lots of stuff. All disposable. Today, it sits in a closet waiting for someone fabulous I suppose, gathering dust. I prefer to dress down these days. Forced to live a smaller, more manageable existence where vacuuming the rafters, doing the heavy lifting and hard physical work counts. Choosing life and the 180 shift to survive, most days I move painstakingly slow. A work in progress, pig-headed acceptance with small town life comes in time variants. Life-long friends who never care about my mood, whether it’s fluorescent red, shady purple, mellow yellow or tequila blue help stay the course. Kindred spirits up for the walk. Have I been lucky? Damn straight. Have I been unlucky? That too. Fate can be a greedy, sarcastic bitch. Yes, some would some say I’ve been unlucky. Yes, but maybe so have you. They can’t see or feel the colors I’ve seen. The places I travel, without ever leaving home. There is nothing special, redeeming about me or you, or them. I welcome the day I am set free from this imperfect mind, body, left with only purity and lightness of soul. And the love. The infinite, crystalized, clear water well of love abundant, shared, given freely and received. To know love intimately, is to recognize special. I am special, after all. The halfway point overflows. The unconditional love of a four-legged, blind in one eye, loyal, sweet, funny, kind, compassionate creature teaches me. Everyday, and any season. No matter who or what has come and gone, no matter rich or poor, no matter which path I’m on. As long as I take the walk, even when not up for it, makes all the difference. Because quite frankly, she is the coolest, most special thing about me.